The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

10 Youngest UK PMs

1. 14th William Pitt the Younger born 28 May 1759 19 December 1783 24 years, 205 days
2. 10th Duke of Grafton born 28 September 1735 14 October 1768 33 years, 16 days
3. 8th Marquess of Rockingham born 13 May 1730 13 July 1765 35 years, 61 days
4. 5th Duke of Devonshire born 8 May 1720 16 November 1756 36 years, 192 days
5. 11th Lord North born 13 April 1732 28 January 1770 37 years, 290 days
6. 18th Earl of Liverpool born 7 June 1770 8 June 1812 42 years, 1 day
7. 53d David Cameron born 9 October 1966 11 May 2010 43 years, 214 days
8. 15th Henry Addington born 30 May 1757 17 March 1801 43 years, 291 days
9. 51st Tony Blair born 6 May 1953 2 May 1997 43 years, 361 days
10. 1st Robert Walpole born 26 August 1676 4 April 1721 44 years, 221 days

Two New Books Worth Getting and a Good Link

Two attractive titles in the On the Christian life series from Crossway have appeared. They are

Spurgeon on the Christian Life Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves (as mentioned previously)

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire by Jason C Meyer

An interesting link drawing attention to the latter topic can be found here.

Others in the series look at Calvin, Warfield, etc. etc.

Lord's Day April 29 2018

It seemed ages since I had preached in Childs Hill having been away last week and at the Banner Conference since then. We had a very good turn out yesterday morning and not too bad a one yesterday evening. Some were missing due to colds and others for unknown reasons. Once again I took two texts. Again they were texts I have never preached on for some reason. In the morning we went to Jeremiah 23:5, 6 and in the evening to Genesis 6:5. I think things went quite well. I also felt some freshness in prayer for once.

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The very final message at the Banner ended up being on fervent prayer. Warren Peel gave us a very challenging second message on Epaphras urging us to interecessory prayer for the peopl.
He again used the same pattern moving from Epaphras back to Jesus and on to us - all of us being ministers to God's people
Early on he quoted John Owen
If men are but as they used to be, I do not believe any minister, any pastor in the world, can keep up a due love to his church, who doth not pray for them. He will meet with so many provocations, imprudences, and miscarriages, that nothing can keep up his heart with inflamed love towards them, but by praying for them continually. That will conquer all prejudices, — if he continues so doing. 
Also I think

My last reason is this, — in our prayers for our people, God will teach us what we shall preach unto them. We cannot pray for them, but we must think on what it is we pray for, and that is the consideration of their condition; and therein God teaches the ministers of the gospel. If it be so with them, this is that they should teach them. The more we pray for our people, the better shall we be instructed what to preach to them. The apostles, to take us off from all other occasions, “gave themselves to prayer and the word,” Acts vi. 4.

In Acts 4 prayer is in the first place. This is not personal but ministerial prayer for the church and the progress of the gospel. He highlighted the manner adn the matter

This is hand to hand combat. It takes pains. It is like wrestling.
Why is prayer so hard? It is a spiritual battle.

That you may stand mature and fully ...
We can learn this from Christ. There are lots and lots of examples of his prayers in the Gospels. Further, he is now interceding in heaven.

Are we wrestling? Do we have a system? Is it part of our work schedule? If a performance review was done for the last five years what woudl it reveal? Would I still have a job?
It is not the only factor but it is important.

Some quotations
Very valuable was the dying testimony of the great and godly Andrew Fuller:
I wish I had prayed more for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in studying and preaching my sermons  John Smith
Prayer often gains success to little talents, while the greatest, without it, are useless or pernicious.
The great Welsh preacher, Mr. Williams of Wern one of the princely trio of that land of great preachers (with John Elias, William Williams and Christmas Evans) left this testimony:
“The old ministers were not much better preachers than we are, and in many respects they were inferior, but there was an unction about their ministry, and success attended upon it now but seldom witnessed. And what was the cause of the difference? They prayed more than we do. If we would prevail and have power with men, we must first prevail and have power with God. It was on his knees that Jacob became a prince, and if we would become princes we must be oftener and more importunate upon our knees.”
Dr. Griffin remarked of a young man, a pupil of his who had just commenced preaching
“He has an active mind and superior talents. The only question I have about him is, whether he will pray down the Holy Spirit while he preaches.” The probability of any minister’s success is in the question, “Will he pray down the Holy Spirit?”
I could add the exhortation of the noble French preacher, Massillon, cannot be too attentively studied: “Accompany your labours with your prayers. Speak of the disorders of your people more frequently to God than to them. Complain to him of the obstacles put in the way of their conversion by your unfaithfulness more frequently than of those which their obstinacy may present. Blame yourself alone at his feet for the small fruit of your ministry. As a tender father apologize to him for the faults of your children, and accuse only yourself.”
He also mentioned and commended Intercessory Prayer: A Ministerial Task by Eugene Bradford

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On the final morning we began with the second of Bill Hughes's messages on discouragement in the ministry.
He took us to Exodus 5, 6 and also Deuteronomy 29:29. He spoke again of discouragements and then of crucial reminders f how to deal with them.

Bitterly disappointed In Exodus Moses takes it to the Lord in prayer. We often wonder why something is happening as it is and often there is no answer. Peter is released but James dies. He gave the example of the death of Hudson Taylor's daughter. Why did she die and why at the time she did?
It is no good to pretend that such things are not a problem. He gave this quote from Conan Doyle explaining why he became a materialist.
I was called in by a poor woman to see her daughter. As I entered the humble sitting-room there was a small cot at one side, and by the gesture of the mother I understood that the sufferer was there. I picked up a candle and walking over I stooped over the little bed, expecting to see a child. What I really saw was a pair of brown sullen eyes, full of loathing and pain, which looked up in resentment to mine. I could not tell how old the creature was. Long thin limbs were twisted and coiled in the tiny couch. The face was sane but malignant. "What is it?" I asked in dismay when we were out of hearing. "It's a girl," sobbed the mother. "She's nineteen. Oh! if God would only take her!"
He also gave the example of a woman whose three sons were all killed on the same day in WWII. Why?
With that comes the question how long. When we look at these things it is crucial to see that they are all part of the mysteries of the will of God. They are not, however, mysteries to him.
Example here are Abraham receiving the promise of a son but then facing silence for 25 years until the point where it was impossible.
Part of the answer is that the glory must be God's. Remember the story of Gideon or Psalm 107 or Jesus's question to Philip Where shall we buy bread? We need to see a thing is impossible on the human level but God is all powerful.
he also mentioned 1 Peter 1:7 and the fact God knows our breaking point (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). God and Satan are at war in this world but it is not an equal fight.
Those who say they do not have a problem with certain temptations need to see that this is because God is protecting them from that form of temptation.

Crucial reminders of how to deal with them
What can help us in the midst of such things? If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?
1. We can look up
We ought to review the lessons from the past. Moses is reminded that this is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We ought to think more of the loneliness of Christ. In one place the poet Rupert Brooke wrote
"I haven't told you much about my voyage, have I? There's not much to tell. I felt, before I got your letter, a trifle lonely at Liverpool. Everybody else seemed to have people to see them off. So I went back on shore and found a dirty little boy, who was unoccupied, and said his name was William. 'Will you wave to me if I give you sixpence, William?' I said. 'Why yes,' said William. So I gave him sixpence, and went back on board. And when the time came he leaned over his railing on the landing-stage, and waved. And now and then he shouted indistinct messages in a shrill voice. And as we slid away, the last object I looked at was a small dot waving a white handkerchief, or nearly white, faithfully. So I got my sixpenn'orth and my farewell - Dear William!"
It is a temptation to isolate ourselves. That is just what the devil wants (avoiding fraternals and conferences, etc).
At this point he alerted us to the helpfulness of Christian biographies. Eg The life of John G Paton, the story of Thomas Boston.
The Bostons buried six of their ten children. Boston wrote
On the 24th of May, about two or three o'clock in the morning, my wife, after long and sore labour, brought forth her first child, a daughter, called Katharine; having, at the holy and just pleasure of the sovereign Former of all things, a double harelip, whereby she was rendered incapable of sucking. My wife, having a great terror of the pains of child-bearing, had beforehand laid her account with death; as she always, I think, did on that occasion thereafter; having, at the same sovereign pleasure, an uncommon share of these pains, the remembrance whereof to this day makes my heart to shrink. When I, understanding her to be delivered, and preserved, was coming towards the chamber to see her; Mrs Lawson above mentioned meeting me, intimated to me the case of the child: with which my heart was struck, like a bird shot and falling from a tree. Howbeit I bore it gravely; and my afflicted wife carried the trial very Christianly and wisely, after her manner. Thus it pleased my God, to correct me for my sins; to balance my enjoyment; and to teach to acknowledge Him, in the formation of children in the womb. The child being weak, was baptised by Mr. Dawson the same day: and was for a long time watched in the night, through the summer. In that dear child's case, I had a singular experience of tender love melted down in pity; as considering her teeth set on edge through the parent's eating of the sour grape.
He also related the famous story of James Fraser found in The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire.
A cold, unfeeling, bold, unheeding, worldly woman was his wife. Never did her godly husband sit down to a comfortable meal in his own house, and often would he have fainted from sheer want of needful sustenance but for the considerate kindness of some of his parishioners. She was too insensate to try to hide her treatment of him, and well was it for him, on one account, that she was. His friends thus knew of his ill-treatment, and were moved to do what they could for his comfort. A godly acquaintance arranged with him, to leave a supply of food in a certain place, beside his usual walk, of which he might avail him self when starved at home. Even light and fire in his study were denied to him on the long, cold winter evenings ; and as his study was his only place of refuge from the cruel scourge of his wife s tongue and temper, there, shivering, and in the dark, he used to spend his winter evenings at home. Compelled to walk in order to keep himself warm, and accustomed to do so when preparing for the pulpit, he always kept his hands before him as feelers in the dark, to warn him of his approaching the wall at either side of the room. In this way he actually wore a hole through the plaster, at each end of his accustomed beat, on which some eyes have looked that glistened with light from other fire than that of love, at the remembrance of his cruel wife. But the godly husband had learned to thank the Lord for the discipline of this trial. Being once at a Presbytery dinner, alone, amidst a group of moderates, one of them proposed, as a toast, the health of their wives, and, turning to Mr Fraser, said, as he winked at his companions, " You, of course, will cordially join in drinking to this toast." " So I will, and so I ought Mr Fraser said, "for mine has been a better wife to me than any one of yours has been to you " " How so they all exclaimed" She has sent me," was his reply, " seven times a day to my knees, when I would not otherwise have gone, and that is more than any of you can say of yours."
He also mentioned Alan Gardiner and spoke of how there is comfort just in reading their lives. What you are going through is what is common to man.
he also reminded us that the one who sends the storm is the one who gives comfort. So

  • Review the lessons from the past
  • Reflect on the experience of Christ
  • Remember the character of God
He said faith doesn't grow by thinking about faith but by thinking about God. God has given us Christ and we are Christ's Bride. Keep on keeping on.

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At 5 pm on Wednesday we had a useful panel discussion on preaching.
Then later Dr Lawson's final address looked at the last words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4. He reminded us again that the main thing for the minister is the preaching of the Word of God. If you are called to preach this is your focus. You will never outgrow this God's charge from heaven. His points were
1. The seriousness of this charge
2. The substance of this charge
Nine consecutive imperative verbs. The first verb is the substance, the rest the specifics. Preach the Word. Herald it.
3. The specifics of this charge
What matters is not only what you say but how you say it. The specific qualifying specifics are
1 Be ready - in season and out of season
2 Correct. Expose what is wrong.
3 Rebuke
4 Encourage
5 With great patience
6 And careful instruction
7 Be sober (keep your head) "If there is no passion there is no preaching"

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This was a walk through John Bunyan's Treatise on the fear of God shortly to be published by the Banner with a foreword by Mike Reeves, our speaker. It is also available here as an ebook.
These quotations from the book might give you the flavour.

There is, I say, several sorts or kinds of fear in the hearts of the sons of men, I mean besides that fear of God that is intended in the text, and that accompanieth eternal life. I shall here make mention of three of them. FIRST. There is a fear of God that flows even from the light of nature. SECOND. There is a fear of God that flows from some of his dispensations to men, which yet is neither universal nor saving. THIRD. There is a fear of God in the heart of some men that is good and godly, but doth not for ever abide so.

Quest. 1. Do not these fears make thee question whether there was ever a work of grace wrought in thy soul? Answ. Yes, verily, that they do. Quest. 2. Do not these fears make thee question whether ever thy first fears were wrought by the Holy Spirit of God? Answ. Yes, verily, that they do. Quest. 3. Do not these fears make thee question whether ever thou hast had, indeed, any true comfort from the Word and Spirit of God? Answ. Yes, verily, that they do. Quest. 4. Dost thou not find intermixed with these fears plain assertions that thy first comforts were either from thy fancy, or from the devil, and a fruit of his delusions? Answ. Yes, verily, that I do. Quest. 5. Do not these fears weaken thy heart in prayer? Answ. Yes, that they do. Quest. 6. Do not these fears keep thee back from laying hold of the promise of salvation by Jesus Christ? Answ. Yes; for I think if I were deceived before, if I were comforted by a spirit of delusion before, why may it not be so again? so I am afraid to take hold of the promise. Quest. 7. Do not these fears tend to the hardening of thy heart, and to the making of thee desperate? Answ. Yes, verily, that they do. Quest. 8. Do not these fears hinder thee from profiting in hearing or reading of the Word? Answ. Yes, verily, for still whatever I hear or read, I think nothing that is good belongs to me. Quest. 9. Do not these fears tend to the stirring up of blasphemies in thy heart against God? Answ. Yes, to the almost distracting of me. Quest. 10. Do not these fears make thee sometimes think, that it is in vain for thee to wait upon the Lord any longer? Answ. Yes, verily; and I have many times almost come to this conclusion, that I will read, pray, hear, company with God's people, or the like, no longer. Well, poor Christian, I am glad that thou hast so plainly answered me; but, prithee, look back upon thy answer. How much of God dost thou think is in these things? how much of his Spirit, and the grace of his Word? Just none at all; for it cannot be that these things can be the true and natural effects of the workings of the Spirit of God: no, not as a spirit of bondage. These are not his doings. Dost thou not see the very paw of the devil in them; yea, in every one of thy ten confessions?

This godly fear floweth from faith; for where the Word maketh a sound impression on the soul, by that impression is faith begotten, whence also this fear doth flow. Therefore right hearing of the Word is called "the hearing of faith" (Gal 3:2). Hence it is said again, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Heb 11:7). The Word, the warning that he had from God of things not seen as yet, wrought, through faith therein, that fear of God in his heart that made him prepare against unseen dangers, and that he might be an inheritor of unseen happiness. Where, therefore, there is not faith in the Word of God, there can be none of this fear; and where the Word doth not make sound impression on the soul, there can be none of this faith. So that as vices hang together, and have the links of a chain, dependence one upon another, even so the graces of the Spirit also are the fruits of one another, and have such dependence on each other, that the one cannot be without the other. No faith, no fear of God; devil's faith, devil's fear; saint's faith, saint's fear.

... where the Word doth not make sound impression on the soul, there can be none of this faith. So that as vices hang together, and have the links of a chain, dependence one upon another, even so the graces of the Spirit also are the fruits of one another, and have such dependence on each other, that the one cannot be without the other. No faith, no fear of God; devil's faith, devil's fear; saint's faith, saint's fear.

Fear and love
Mike reminded us that love is shaped by its object. Eg love for your dog, wife, God. Fear of God helps us clarify our love for God.
How can we grow in our fear of God? It comes from growing in our knowledge of God's Word. An encounter with God will increase our knowledge of him and ourselves. We will grow in our awe of him and our horror at ourselves. Bunyan says

For if God shall come to you indeed, and visit you with the forgiveness of sins, that visit removeth the guilt, but increaseth the sense of thy filth, and the sense of this that God hath forgiven a filthy sinner, will make thee both rejoice and tremble. O, the blessed confusion that will then cover thy face whilst thou, even thou, so vile a wretch, shalt stand before God to receive at his hand thy pardon, and so the firstfruits of thy eternal salvation ....

Fear and joy
See Psalm 2, etc. Saints take pleasure and delight in fearing God. Our enjoyment of God is again shaped by the object. Examples here - coffee, God.

How is the fear of God so life savingly useful and important for the minister?
Proverbs 1:7. You do not know God or yourself if you do not know him. Fear of God leads us to want to know him more. This makes us keen to press on therefore. It shapes our learning. Not puffing up.
He referred to Thielicke's A little exercise for young theologians and the idea of theological puberty adn the need to get beyond it.
We were reminded  - all your abilities are a liability. It is not talent that God so much blesses as the fear of God (M'Cheyne).

At the end our speaker reminded us that

The fear of God purifies us
The fear of God makes us large hearted
The fear of God will make us humble
The fear of God will give us strength to pursue a righteous but unpopular cause

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This next message, from Bill Hughes, was on discouragement in the ministry. He began with a quotation of Brash Bonsall calling discouragement a child of the devil and an acceptance that we all know discouragement.
Answers to it are everywhere in the Bible it wassuggested but we were taken to Numbers 20, 21. Two or three points were made
1. The circumstances that lead to discouragement
1 Unforeseen obstructions to progress
The unhelpfulness of the King of Edom was exacerbated by the fact Israel and Edom were brother nations. It is often those closest to us who prove untrue or lack sympathy and that leads to discouragement. In 2 Corinthians we have a clear example of this happening. The Corinthians had an uncanny ability to ascribe wrong motives to Paul. In any ministry there will be knock backs. Many of these are simply what happens but some are wounds that are deliberately made by people near to us and they hurt the most and the longest.
The lack of sympathy from Edom has its roots in the relationship between Jacob and Esau. It is also referred to throughout the rest of the Old Testament. When we are attacked by fellow believers it is good to remember Isaiah 54:17 and the fact that anyone who attacks God's people needs to beware.
Moses did not force the issue with Edom. There is a lesson there. There is a time to submit even when those who oppose us are not in the right.
Your enemies can be your best friends. They will sometimes tell you things you need to know. If the criticism is invalid then we need to commit it to the Lord. Mr Hughes shared his personal experience of discouragement - We ask "Why am I here?" The answer is for them and for Him. At other times we need to stand firm and not give in. In Acts Paul and Barnabas do leave places but they also remain at times. We need to get good advice and look to the Lord and stand firm. The aspirations of a lifetime can be washed away in a moment.

Not now, but in the coming years, It may be in the better land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears, And there, some time, we’ll understand.

We’ll know why clouds instead of sun Were over many a cherished plan;
Why song has ceased when scarce begun; ’Tis there, some time, we’ll understand.

Why what we long for most of all, Eludes so oft our eager hand;
Why hopes are crushed and castles fall, Up there, some time, we’ll understand

2 Unforeseen difficulties about the pathway
This is what comes next. It may have been the length of the journey or its hardness and knowing they cannot go back. The future is still not theirs. They react in a spirit of unbelief. That often happens in times of stress. Then they encounter the King of Arad. There is a determination to obstruct them and even destroy them. There is always opposition in the ministry. We must expect it. The common attitude today is summed up in the famous Invictus

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

A clash is inevitable then. Think of Daniel and his friends or what happened in Acts. When people are under conviction they can become really angry. Even if they are converted the problems may only just be beginning. When you find yourself in the dungeon of discouragement you need to bear in mind that there are two forces in your life that make it a battleground. On one hand God is active in your life and has a plan and purpose. However, on the other hand, the Devil also has his designs and purposes. If we forget that then we will only add to our discouragement. This is not an afternoon game of tennis but a fight against powerful forces of evil.
A recurring question for us (as seen in the Psalms) is how long? We have to be prepared to be patient. One of Satan's devices is to demoralise you. Mr Hughes once wrote in his Bibkle this reminder "Never, never be tempted to doubt in the dark what you to be right in the light". A marathon not a sprint.

2. The effects of discouragement
For times' sake this was done much more briefly
1 They dishonoured God's person and spoke against him and Moses
Flavel says "Complain to God you may but complain of God you must not"
2 They doubted God's salvation
Look to the rock from whence you were hewn
3 They doubted God's care and concern
4 They despised what God had given them
Denigration of past blessings can quickly becomes the despising of present blessings. Jonah's story is the story of one who despite God's grace to him still ends up discouraged and angry. What a contrast with the Lord weeping over Jerusalem.
5 They discovered the discipline of God

We also began on point 3. Some of the considerations in dealing with discouragement
Here it begins with prayer and contrition .Always the way to begin. The sovereignty of God is another important matter.

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Steven Lawson's second session was on 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as a workman ....
Early on he quoted John Piper
"at the heart of every pastor’s work is book-work. Call it reading, meditation, reflection, cogitation, study, exegesis, or whatever you will — a large and central part of our work is to wrestle God’s meaning from a Book, and proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit."
He went on to note five distinguishing marks of the biblical pastor
1. An eager or zealous spirit to dig into God's Word
The word used (Do your best or be diligent) means to use speed. We need to use speed, to be prompt, to hasten to the Word of God. He used a personal illustration revealing his non-academic stature until his conversion. We may not need more men in the ministry, he suggested, but fewer who are more eager.
2. A presented life
He took the example of Whitefield adn quoted Dallimore
There he is at five in the morning ... on his knees with his English Bible, his Greek New Testament and Henry’s Commentary spread out before him. He reads a portion in the English, gains a fuller insight into it as he studies words and tenses in the Greek and then considers Matthew Henry’s explanation of it all. Finally, there comes the unique practice that he has developed: that of ‘praying over every line and word’ of both the English and the Greek till the passage, in its essential message, has veritably become part of his own soul. See Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, 1:82, 83
3. Hard work
Self-denial is required. Luther said
Sure, it would be hard for me to sit “in the saddle.” But then again I would like to see the horseman who could sit still for a whole day and gaze at a book without worrying or dreaming or think about anything else. Ask ... a preacher ... how much work it is to speak and preach. ... The pen is very light, that is true . . . but in this work the best part of the human body (the head), the noblest member (the tongue), and the highest work (speech) bear the brunt of the load and work the hardest, while in other kinds of work either the hand, the foot, the back or other members do the work alone so such a person can sing happily or make jokes freely which a sermon writer cannot do. Three fingers do it all . . . but the whole body and soul have to work at it
For the pastor every week if final exam week. We don't retire, he suggested, we refire.
4. A godly fear
Painful emotion, a consciousness of failure is always there. All we do will be tested by fire. He described how as an American footballer he would be sat down as the coach went through his moves and  graded him. So it will be for the preacher. We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.
5. Precise exegesis
The idea is of cutting it straight - handling the Word of God in the right way. No sloppy work. The word used was used for a workman making a straight line, a farmer ploughing a straight furrow, a builder getting the bricks straight, a roadmaker making a road straight and flat road, a tent maker laying the tanned hide down and using a pattern to cut around so that the hide perfectly fits the profile, later to be sewn together.
OT NT, all the component parts must be grasped so that the Bible speaks with one voice. All wired together like a perfect tapestry.
He closed with this quotation

Fling him into his office. Tear the "Office" sign from the door and nail on the sign, "Study." Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.
Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he's bruised and beaten into being a blessing.
Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.
Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.
Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!
Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day-"Sir, we would see Jesus."
When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day's superficial problems, and manage the community's weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.
Command him not to come back until he's read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, "Thus saith the Lord."
Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he's back against the wall of the Word.
And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left-God's Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.
And when he's burned out by the flaming Word, when he's consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he's privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

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The fifth session in our time together was led by Warren Peel from Northern Ireland. This was the first of two planned messages on Epaphras, the minister so highly commended by Paul in Colossians. He spoke this time on two matters
1. Faithful preaching Colossians 1:5-7
Epaphras faithfully preached the gospel. He proclaimed the grace of God. The Colossians learned the gospel from him. Normally, hearing or obeying or believing is used. Perhaps Paul is stressing the careful, patient labour Epaphras employed.
This is what Christ sends his ministers to do. Christ himself ministered in this way. Remember his words in the synagogue at Nazareth or Mark 1:14. Mark 1:38 makes the same point - Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” This is the first of three crucial points where Mark records that Jesus prayed. The greatness of Christ's preaching - the model for Epaphras. Are we too doing the work of an evangelist? If they won't come in are we going out? Sirs, we would see Jesus - put it up not just in the pulpit but in the study.
2. Frequent pains Colossians 4:12,13
He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the people. He has much toil it is literally. He has not worked hard and is now relaxing. He goes on toiling on their behalf. This is an unusual word for work. (The word only appears elsewhere in Revelation). It is a battlefield word and it emphasises pains taking effort. If Paul is in Rome at this time then Epaphras has travelled over a thousand miles to get Paul's help with this empty and hollow philosophy that was doing such harm in the Lycus Valley. It may even have been that Epaphras was in imprisoned there in Rome alongside Paul (see Philemon). Where did he get this idea? No doubt he got it because his ministry was shaped by Christ's ministry. Much toil was central to Christ's ministry. Think of his death and his life too. How much of this do we know? Are you toiling or shrinking back? It is tempting to hold back. 1 Peter 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

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All I can do to report on Mike Reeves on Spurgeon is to give you some quotations and some links.

John Bost is great as well as large. ... Here is a man after our own heart, with a lot of human nature in him, a large-hearted, tempest-tossed mortal, who has done business on the great waters, and would long ago have been wrecked had it not been for his simple reliance upon God. His is a soul like that of Martin Luther, full of emotion and of mental changes; borne aloft to heaven at one time and anon sinking in the deeps. Worn down with labour, he needs rest, but will not take it, perhaps cannot. ... [I have] found him full of zeal and devotion, and brimming over with godly experience, and at the same time abounding in mirth, racy remark, and mother wit.

Dear Mr. Passmore,
When that good little lad came here on Monday with the sermon, late at night, it was needful. But please blow somebody up for sending the poor little creature here, late to-night, in all this snow, with a parcel much heavier than he ought to carry. He could not get home till eleven, I fear; Charles Spurgeon and I feel like a cruel brute in being the innocent cause of having a poor lad out at such an hour on such a night. There was no need at all for it. Do kick somebody for me, so that it may not happen again.
Yours ever heartily,
C. H. Spurgeon

It is not every preacher we would care to talk with; but there are some whom one would give a fortune to converse with for an hour. I love a minister whose face invites me to make him my friend - a man upon whose doorstep you read, “Salve,” “Welcome;” and feel that there is no need of that Pompeian warning, “Cave Canem,” “Beware of the dog.” Give me the man around whom the children come, like flies around a honey-pot: they are first-class judges of a good man. ... A man who is to do much with men must love them, and feel at home with them. An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living. I have met somewhere with the observation that to be a popular preacher one must have bowels. I fear that the observation was meant as a mild criticism upon the bulk to which certain brethren have attained: but there is truth in it. A man must have a great heart if he would have a great congregation. His heart should be as capacious as those noble harbours along our coast, which contain sea-room for a fleet. When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you.

What a bubbling fountain of humour Mr. Spurgeon had!’ wrote his friend William Williams. ‘I have laughed more, I verily believe, when in his company than during all the rest of my life besides.’ A whole chapter of Spurgeon’s ‘autobiography’ is entitled ‘Pure Fun,’ and he regularly surprised people who expected the zealous pastor to be dour and intense. Grandiosity, religiosity, and humbug could all expect to be pricked on his wit.

When rebuked for using so much humour in the pulpit, Spurgeon replied, "Well, madam, you may very well be right; but if you knew how much I held back, you would give me more credit than you are giving me now!"

Man was not originally made to mourn; he was made to rejoice. The Garden of Eden was his place of happy abode; and, as long as he continued obedient to God, nothing grew in that garden which could cause him sorrow. For his delight, the flowers breathed out their perfume. For his delight, the landscapes were full of beauty, and the rivers rippled over golden sands. God made human beings, as He made His other creatures, to be happy. They are capable of happiness, they are in their right element when they are happy; and now that Jesus Christ has come to restore the ruins of the Fall, He has come to bring back to us the old joy—only it shall be even sweeter and deeper than it could have been if we had never lost it. A Christian has never fully realised what Christ came to make him until he has grasped the joy of the Lord. Christ wishes His people to be happy. When they are perfect, as He will make them in due time, they shall also be perfectly happy. As heaven is the place of pure holiness, so is it the place of unalloyed happiness; and in proportion as we get ready for heaven, we shall have some of the joy which belongs to heaven, and it is our Saviour’s will that even now His joy should remain in us, and that our joy should be full.

I love the lightnings, God’s thunder is my delight ... Men are by nature afraid of the heavens; the superstitious dread the signs in the sky, and even the bravest spirit is sometimes made to tremble when the firmament is ablaze with lightning, and the pealing thunder seems to make the vast concave of heaven to tremble and to reverberate; but I always feel ashamed to keep indoors when the thunder shakes the solid earth, and the lightnings flash like arrows from the sky. Then God is abroad, and I love to walk out in some wide space, and to look up and mark the opening gates of heaven, as the lightning reveals far beyond, and enables me to gaze into the unseen. I like to hear my Heavenly Father’s voice in the thunder.

I delight in working for my Lord and Master, because I feel a blessed community of interest with Him

It is a delight, a joy, a rapture, to talk out my thoughts in words that flash upon the mind at the instant they are required; but it is pure drudgery to sit still and groan for words without succeeding in obtaining them. Well may a man's books be called his 'works,'

Holiness deals with the thoughts and intents, the purposes, the aims, the objects, the motives of men. Morality does but skim the surface, holiness goes into the very caverns of the great deep; holiness requires that the heart shall be set on God, and that it shall beat with love to him. The moral man may be complete in his morality without that.
Methinks I might draw such a parallel as this. Morality is a sweet, fair corpse, well washed and robed, and even embalmed with spices; but holiness is the living man, as fair and as lovely as the other, but having life. Morality lies there, of the earth, earthy, soon to be food for corruption and worms; holiness waits and pants with heavenly aspirations, prepared to mount and dwell in immortality beyond the stars. These twain are of opposite nature: the one belongs to this world, the other belongs to that world beyond the skies.
It is not said in heaven, "Moral, moral, moral art thou, O God!" but "Holy, holy. holy art thou. O Lord!" You note the difference between the two words at once. The one, how icy cold; the other, oh, how animated! Such is mere morality, and such is holiness! Moralist! — I know I speak to many such — remember that your best morality will not save you; you must have more than this, for without holiness — and that not of yourself, it must be given you of the Spirit of God — without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.


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We started today with two reports from overseas but our main opening session today was led by Iain Murray. Focusing on Matthew 4:19, Luke 5:10 and John 21:10 he said that the same they contain the same message given on different occasions. He made several points.
1. The Lord calls men to the work of evangelistic preaching.
There are fish to be caught, lost sheep to be found, prisoners to be set free. It is to be done through preaching the Word of God. It is a mistake not to see the apostolic ministry as a proto-type for ministry today. Thomas Cartwright and John Whitgift debated in the 16th Century what ministers are to do. It is to preach. In the 18th century Whitefield wrote "I wish well to this poor kingdom but this will never be until the Spirit of God is poured out on the sons of the prophets."
2. Following Christ comes before preaching him
"Religion never thrives much under too much sunshine" (Whitefield). It is possible to be doing the work of the ministry without having been converted. Whitefield spoke against those dealing with the "commerce of an unfelt Christ". There is a way to hell from the very gate of heaven. John 15:5. Nearness to Christ is the key to usefulness.
3. The confirmation that is needed is that Jesus is the incarnate God
This comes out in Luke 5 as it does in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1. Cf Job 42:6. The relative absence of conviction of sin today is no doubt due to our failure to preach the deity of the Lord as we should. Before the Reformation the Lord's death was common knowledge. What was missing was an apprehension of the glory of the Godhead. When that happens, every other truth loses its power. Which he has bought with his own blood. Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.
4. It is the fear of the Lord that will enable us to do what we cannot do by ourselves
We are channels not the means of saving people. It is Christ who does the work.
5. Churches need reformation as well as revival
This is seldom heard or practiced. John Owen wrote that if we are faithful we "will receive nothing, practise nothing, own nothing, in his worship, but what is of his appointment." It is not that the Puritans were pernickety. Rather they were evangelists.
6. What evangelistic preaching means in practice
As a matter of principle Dr Lloyd-Jones believed that in every congregation preaching that is primarily evangelistic 'should take place at least once each week'. Spurgeon wrote "I do not know of anything that is more likely to produce a congregation of Pharisees than [not preaching evangelistically]. A further result of this wrong attitude is that such people only attend one service each Sunday; once is enough for them, they do not need any more!"
He also said "The sermons that are most likely to convert people seem to me to be those that are full of truth, truth about the fall, truth about the law, truth about human nature, and its alienation from God, truth about Jesus Christ, truth about the Holy Spirit, truth about the Everlasting Father, truth about the new birth, truth about obedience to God, and how we learn it, and all such great verities."
Great stuff

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The Banner Conference addresses can be accessed live here or hereabouts.

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Our first evening session was American Steven J Lawson on 1 Timothy 4:13-16.
After speaking about the church in Ephesus adn the probllems it seems to have had with unqualified elders, unqualified deacons, aggressive women, passive men, etc. and the discouraged state Timothy seems to have been in. (There are no easy churches. Wherever we go there will be challenges) he made these six alliterative points.
1. The priority of biblical preaching.
Preaching is central. Theology must drive practice. It defines everyting. Everything good and godly comes from the primacy of God's Word. Job number one for the pastor is to preach. No church will rise any higher than its preaching. The first century church was a preaching church.
2. The pattern of biblical preaching
All three elements highlighted in verse 13 (Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching) must be present in our ministries.
They provide a grid or template for us. They are essential, non-negotiable.
Public reading. The need to centre on the word.
Exhortation. This is what separates preaching from lecturing. There should be urging, pleading, consoling, warning, challenging, applying, motivating, etc. Preaching must address the whole person - the mind, affections and will. Devotional speakers, lecturers or mere manipulators are not what we need. We need preachers who address all three, all you are. He quoted Jonathan Edwards

I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of the subject. 
Teaching. We need to learn how to extract the doctrine out of the passage of Scripture
3. The perseverance of biblical preaching
Verse 14 Do not neglect your gift .... . There is a danger of watering down the message. There is generally too little preaching today. No wonder churches are growing weaker. It is being displaced by so many other things. To play the violin well you need more not less practice. The more we preach the better we preach.
4. The pervasiveness of biblical preaching
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them.... Great effort is needed in preaching. Be immersed in it, saturated by it.
5. The progress of biblical preaching
That should be obvious to all. ... so that everyone may see your progress.
6. The purifying of biblical preaching
At the very least preaching will have good effect on us.
He closed with a favourite Spurgeon quotation

We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark eras, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land.… I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.

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We kicked off this year with what my esteemed father-in-law sometimes calls a golden oldie. This one was on Acts 16:14c The Lord opened her heart.
There were three simple points
1. The condition of this woman
Her heart was closed to the gospel. It is how we all are by nature. She had done many good things but her heart was closed to God.
2. What happened
The Lord opened her heart. He took the first step. Today any emotional response may be confused with this but it is not the real thing. Christ is not a dead Saviour but he goes on working to this day. She was the reason Paul was kept from preaching elsewhere and why he was brought to Philippi.
3. What the result of that is
God took from her the prejudice, the scales of blindness that had been hers. The word came to her not only in word but with power and the Holy Spirit. When her heart was opened she listened to the word. Her eyes were opened to see the beauty of Jesus Christ. She experienced what Thomas Chalmers referred to as "The expulsive power of a new affection".

Two nice quotes
She heard Paul speaking and she thought, “I have never heard anyone speak like this.” She thought to herself, “What an orator he is. He really believes what he says.” She thought, “This is all making sense.” But it was not because of Paul’s eloquence or sincerity that his words were having such a transforming influence in her life. It was all due to the Lord opening her heart. I once spoke to a woman in hospital who had been involved in a minor accident outside Aberystwyth and for fear she might have had concussion they were keeping her in hospital for 24 hours. She was fed up with life, but I spoke to her about the God who is in control of all our circumstances, even the fall of the sparrow. “That God has come to this world in his Son Jesus Christ to save us,” I said. She looked back bleakly to me and she said, “Words, only words.” The gospel came to her, but in word only. When the gospel came to the Thessalonians it did not come in word only, but in power and with the Holy Spirit and with much assurance so that the Thessalonians received the gospel of Paul not as the word of men but as it is in truth the word of God. So it was when Lydia’s heart was opened she was able to respond to Paul’s message.
Douglas MacMillan and his elders were interviewing two teenage boys who had come to profess faith and were applying for church membership. “Tell us what changes have taken place in your life that would lead us to believe you have been converted,” said Douglas. Their spokesman said, “Oh, it was no change in us. The change was in you, about six months ago, when your preaching got interesting.” Of course it was no change in Douglas’ preaching. What had happened was that the Lord had opened their hearts at that time and then the preaching seemed more relevant, and the worship more enjoyable and Sunday was no longer a boring day. So as Paul opened the Scriptures using the sword of the Spirit the same Spirit of Jesus opened Lydia’s heart so that she believed what Paul said to her. She became the first convert of whom we know anything on European soil.